39 answers

Repairing Split Stomach Muscles

I just had my first baby. He was 8.5 pounds and I am 5'1". Needless to say I was huge looking (at 6 months people were already asking my if I was ready to pop or if I was going to have twins). I felt like my baby was hanging in front of me and I got very bad stretch marks. Now, 3 months later, I do not mind the stretch marks but my stomach has a strange shape. I looks like a concave bowl in the middle. Also when I had my last appointment with my midwife, she checked my stomach muscles and said that I had a two-finger separation! She suggested sit-ups with my arms crossed over my stomach while holding my sides. I am being patient with my body, but I was wondering if anyone else has had this problem and can offer any other suggestions or insight.

What can I do next?

Featured Answers

hi!
I am 7 1/2 mos. preg. with my 3rd. I sat up from my appt. a couple months ago and my Dr. commented on the shape of my tummy when I did so. He says I have split muscles, as well. He told me to do the same, but try the right shoulder to left knee, left shoulder to right knee situps after I give birth to repair the muscles. I hope it works for the both of us! So, I guess I'm saying that I've heard the same thing and was told the same thing! ;-)

L.

It is great that I got to read what you wrote because I always thought after my pregnancy of my 1st son that my stomach felt like what you described! I thought something was wrong with me. Sorry, I have no suggestions but just reading what you wrote makes me feel better about myself. I was totally worried something was wrong with me but never asked a doctor about it.
Z-

Hi Jasmine,

I had 3 very large babies and also had split muscles. The only thing that can fix this is for a doctor to sew them back together. I had a tummy tuck 3 years ago because I has excessive skin around my tummy area and to they also sewed my ab muscles back together so my skin can look normal again.

More Answers

Start taking Pilates. The mat classes are not expensive and hands down it's the best way to strengthen your core.

Jasmin, I think you can buy a post-pregnancy stomach support at any maternity store like Motherhood. Try wearing one to help the muscles with healing during the day or at night, witchever is more comfortable for you.

Jasmin,

I did have this problem. I am 5'4" and my baby was 8.7lbs. I tried the whole working out thing for 2 years, had a 2nd baby that was only 2 oz smaller. After another 14 months of working out and crunches out the wazoo, I finally consulted a doctor. He recommended a plastic surgeon, saying that the muscles won't reconnect on their own. After seeing 3 surgeons they all said that they had to be restitched, meaning surgery. After loosing the weight and working out and everything, mine never connected again. So I had a tummy tuck. It was the only way to repair them and I am thrilled with the results. Hope this was helpful.

Don't panic, it took 9 months to get that way and you will be surprised how quickly it will go back. But don't worry it will. Enjoy your beautiful baby.

Try PILATES first.

hi!
I am 7 1/2 mos. preg. with my 3rd. I sat up from my appt. a couple months ago and my Dr. commented on the shape of my tummy when I did so. He says I have split muscles, as well. He told me to do the same, but try the right shoulder to left knee, left shoulder to right knee situps after I give birth to repair the muscles. I hope it works for the both of us! So, I guess I'm saying that I've heard the same thing and was told the same thing! ;-)

L.

Hey Jasmin,

My stomach muscles also split when I was about 6 months pregnant. I asked my OB about it and he said it is very common and unfortunately permanent. He said all the sit-ups in the world would not make it better but could actually make a worse buldge. So, just be careful! My daughter is 7 months now, and since the baby weight is mostly gone, I honestly don't even notice it anymore. Good Luck!

You should consult a surgeon (unfortunately). They will send you to get either an ultrasound or catscan. I have the same thing which basically requires surgery to repair. The good news, unless you are having a problem with bowel movements, the Dr. actually recommends putting off this type of surgery for awhile. Since I had a c-section with my 9 lb. 10oz. baby, my dr. recommended 6 mos. I haven't had my surgery yet and actually planning to wait a bit longer. Two doctors I spoke to were Dr. Decio Rangel and Dr. Robert Cole - both in Santa Monica. You might want to see someone for more conclusive results. Good luck!

Hi Jasmin:
I am a pre and post natal fitness instructor and train women on just this topic : ) Actually up to a 3 finger separation is considered "normal". Don't fret about it too much and take the advice you were given. Bracing or holding your belly is advised when doing your strength work. You could even use a king sized pillow case as a splint to bring the two sides of your rectus abdominus together while crunching to get those muscle fibers firing again. This is normal and the separation can get better. If you want to email me directly, I can be reached at ____@____.com

In health,
F.

Madison is correct. My OB/GYN said the same thing. I am in the same position. I had to have a Cesarean with my first one, and with my 2nd baby. When I was pregnant, my belly was HUGE.. not due to me being huge but with both pregnancies I carried outwardly and very big and people thought I had triplets in there. My doctor, and I've seen this online, has said that sometimes, with some women, a pregnancy can actually "split" the abdominal wall (down in the middle) and the ligaments can tear...there is a name for this condition, but I forget what it was. Thus, the ligaments won't go back to it's original state and the abdominal wall can't just reattach itself etc. Thus, the stomach will still protrude and "look" as though you are still pregnant. Unfortunately. Yes, it is permanent. My friend has also had this happen to her, and she has told me that her friend has this problem as well. It is just the way a pregnancy affects the body/abdominal wall sometimes.

I really can understand how you feel. I just wanted to share my experience. In the other end of the spectrum, I know some women opt for plastic surgery? Working out very hard and consistently may help get the stomach stronger... but for me, I know I will not get a flat stomach again... I used to have 6 pack abs and was in very good shape before pregnancy and was very fit and worked out everyday and was very slender & tight in my midsection. However, this did NOT exclude me from the state of my belly now or how the pregnancy affected my stomach muscles post pregnancy.Do not let people criticize you or your body fitness... it has nothing to do with how "fit" you were or are. Once the stomach muscles separate and tear from the abdominal wall due to pregnancy... it has nothing to do with how good a shape your were in. I am testimony to that. Yes, a 2-finger separation is common, in these kinds of cases. Only people whom this has happened to can understand.

I guess the good ol' way of working out, the whole body, not just spot toners is the one sure way of helping the stomach tone up, or at least get fit again and healthy. But it will take time. Remember, do not do traditional sit-ups.. this will make the muscles (in this kind of case) protrude more. You should do OBLIQUE muscle exercises. I give you a hug as I know how this tummy issue can feel. Good luck and take care,
~Susan
www.cafepress.com/littlegooogoo

Just continue to exercise and eat well. I did not occur over night and will not go away over night, be patient. I am 49 and 3 children later, my first was 9lbs12 oz. at 5'3, so talk about big. I am now as thin as I was before children and I had 3 C-sections. I excerise regularly and stretch (try yoga/palates) or try the large ball and do stomach exercises on it,( target $25). Good luck. C.

My nurse/friend recommended a book called, "Lose Your Mummy Tummy" and it has some great info and different exercises to work the right places. I just bought it but am hopeful.

Hi Jasmin,
I am the Mother of three girls. Two who were over 8 pounds. I have always had a very small flat stomach. However after having my last girl my lower stomach has a little pooch. I took an aerobics class at the community college. I did sit ups, crunches and the hang bar thing. My upper abs looked great I could flex them and you could see all 4 of them. should be 6 right? Wrong my lower abs got flatter but no visible muscles. The teacher told me it is because most womens muscles split from having children. Unfortunately there is no way to repair it. I am sorry to tell you that. However I believe you can get them flat keep doing what you are doing. Also give your body some time. It takes a full year for your body to recover from a pregnancy. Don't just take my word for it google your question as well. Or go on Web MD. I love how driven you are but be patient with your stomach. Now I need to do some sit ups. Thanks for encouraging me. M..

The bad news, you can sit however you like, and nothing is going to heal these muscles. The good news, alot of health insurance will cover repair of herniated muscles, it's basically a tummy tuck with a medical reason. Good luck!

Dear Jasmin,

I would see a doctor. I don't know, but I would wonder if you might herniate through that split.

God Bless
B.

I hear you about the stomach separation. I have a 4.5 month old and my separation is about 1 finger now. I also have two other children. I have been using this book called "Lose You Mummy Tummy" by Judy Tupler. She tells you how to strengthen the abdominal muscle to the correct way so you don't aggravate a diastisis and how to make it better. She is nurse and trainer as well. The others are right about the diastisis if it does not correct itself regarding surgery. The doctor goes in and stitches it back together no big deal, but important to repair so you protect your abdominal cavity and your insides don't buldge out. Talk to your Doctor and midwife to see if you need to go to a specialist. Hope this info helps!!Have a good one!!

I had this same things with my first. It went away pretty quickly with the correct "sit-ups" I would reccomend doing pilates and yoga to get them back in shape. Be very aware that you are always pulling in your abs while you are doing anything that uses these muscles. And to give you a bit of hope... I didn't have this problem with my other pregnancies!

I have been doing pilates with a really good trainer - they are not all created equal. My dad has diastasis recti and has had amazing results with pilates and taking a natural supplement called Ligaplex I - even being 61.

Pilates is NOT sit-ups. In fact, I am 2 weeks from delivering and I am still doing pialtes with my trainer. I have been doing it for 18 months now - 3 months after my 2nd son was born. I get HUGE during pregnancy - to the point that everyone asks if I am pregnant with twins! I don't have diastasis recti, and everyone is amazed with how huge I am.

Pilates WILL help, but it may not take care of it completely, then surgery is the only other option that I know of. Even if you do opt for surgery, there will be less damage to repair, if your abs are strong...and like I said, it's about core strengthening and learning how to engage the abs without causing more damage.

Good luck!

I like "The Core Program" by Peggy Brill. It's in a book format, but the exercises are easy and effective. They work on your core--all the muscles supporting your spine, front and back. I feel great afterwards, even with the beginner Core. Also she explains why sit ups may not be that great because they strain the pelvic floor, which also needs strengthening after (and during!!!) carrying our babies. Best wishes.

IS THIS MID WIFE A FITNESS EXPERT OR PERSONAL TRAINER?

I don't like the sound of that advice
Seriously, see one asap

I do not let pregnant women or women who have not returned to normal do sits ups like that. Doing sit ups while there IS separation could make it PERMANENT

You may also end up with a ridge like a dinosaurs back, down your belly for life.
SEE a certified professional trainer who specializes in pregancy / post natal.

;-(

Good Luck!!

Dear Jasmine, I was huge too, I am the same hieght as you but I was big due to carrying too much water (about 3x as a normal pregnant woman) that was the first time. The second time I was huge due to soccer ball sized uterine fibroid. 6 months after giving birth to my second child (both were C-sect)I had a myoectomy (like a C-sect but they are removing the fibroid instead of a baby)and after the docter removed the fibroid he did a mini tummy tuck as I was on my way to a hernia. This could be what your problem is? Wearing a abdominal supporter (which I did the first pregnancy but not the second, duh me.) helps keep you belly in shape both muscles and skin for future reference. You might want to check with your doctor.
N. :o)

you are lucky!! 2 finger separation only.
I had my second boy over a year now and both were over 7pounds (I'm 5'4 - mixed Asian decent so I'm small too), I still have about 4 finger separation.

If I do a half sit-up my stomach will form into a hill shape and my belly button pops out, plus I have an umbilical hernia to top it off. it's so depressing :(

I have tried using the slimming body shaper undies and it feels terrible, like i'm being strangled, cant move and in summer i die from the heat of the synthetic material, so i'm curious to know how to fix this too.

it's been 3 years since my last baby I had 2 emergency c-sections so they cut right across those ads. I have the same kind of separation and no amount of working out has fixed it. I talked to my doctor about it and he said that they would have to be fixed surgically so that a hernia doesn't develop. I haven't made any plans basically I won't until a hernia develops or I'm ready for a mommy make over and get the stretch marks removed as well. For now it's just there. Oh well my badge of honor. and when my girls ask me why my tummy has those lines i tell them that they are fault lines. This one is your fault, this one is your sisters fault this one is daddy's fault. Everyone gets a kick out of it. Good Luck

Did you have a C-section or natural birth? I had a son when I was almost 31, only gained 30 lbs., and now had a daughter at 45 years old (she's now almost 15 months), gained 45 lbs and had a C-section. I'll probably have to have a tummy tuck next year and this spring/summer am going to try to lose the last 8-10 lbs. I did not get stretch marks but the skin is definitely loose and I have a feeling after losing the extra weight I will still have the loose skin. That's what it sounds like happened to you being so petite. I'm 5'4" and normal average weight is 115 and got up to 160 lbs. this go around!

I had the exact problem you do, with about a two finger separation. I got a book called Lose Your Mummy Tummy. The premise of how to strengthen your stomach presented by the book was very basic, but helpful and it made sense. You could find it at a bookstore and thumb through the first 20 pages to get the idea. The author believes certain kinds of sit-ups can actually do more damage.

This is usually done shortly after labor. My Ob/GYN informed me that he stitched those muscles together during my c-section. I had asked him after reading somewhere that this can be a problem.

If you should have another child, this can certainly be done at that time/

If you are interested in yoga, it's a great way to strengthen your core muscles. I did it throughout my pregnancy and after. I am also short and got really big with my daughter. It only took about a month for my muscles to return to normal.

Well, first off, congratulations on your son. What a blessing! I had the same thing happen after my first baby (I'm a mom of five). The good news is that with regular exercise, you won't be able to notice it as much. The bad news is, that it won't go away completely. I was in amazing shape after having gained and lost 80 pounds from my first pregnancy. Actually, I got into the best shape of my life and, though I wouldn't notice the problem when I was standing or doing my "normal" daily routine, whenever I was lying down and would sit up, it would show up then. I eventually had a tummy tuck and that did solve the problem. They go in and, in essence, tie your muscles back together. This route certainly wouldn't be right for everyone, but it increased my self esteem and was worth it to me. You would have to decide for yourself.

Jasmin...I understand completely! I have 4 children...my first was 9.10, my second was 10.15, and my last 2 are twins, who were 8 pounds each at birth. The only c-section I had was with the twins (little miss was breech..the stinker!) With my first 2 babies, the space was very large. It took about 6-12 months before it went back to normal (no more space). With my twins, however, I still have a space about an inch or so wide. I was concerned because there's a danger of hernias forming and asked my ob. She told me that it takes time for the body to heal those muscles, sometimes up to a year, and that abdominal exercises would help. She also told me that, since I had large twins, it would take longer for mine to heal. So, I would do those sit-ups your midwife told you about and give yourself a little more time to heal...your still recently post-partum. Hopefully, the muscles will go back to thier proper location very soon for you! Hang in there and congratulations on your sweet baby!

HI Jasmin. I had a large baby (9lbs., 10oz.) but luckily, no stretch marks. I did crunches on the ball until about 7 mos. and Pilates until 8. I had 1 finger separation and was able to repair it fairly quickly doing little crunches on the Pilates ball at home. Another great thing my Pilates trainer told me to do was take one of those rubber thermabands and wrap it on the bottom of one foot, taking to two ends in your hands and lie down. Then slowly roll up to a sitting position, letting your feet in the band help you up. You could probably use a towel if you don't have one of the bands.

Hope this helps.

D.

SAHM with 16 month old boy, 30 something

I had the same thing after my son was born. My midwife also checked the gap with her fingers. I remember feeling like it would never be the same again, but my son is 11 months old now and the gap is closed and my stomach muscles are getting stronger. Not without hard work though! Hang in there and don't get discouraged. Your body needs time to heal its self. Try keeping your stomach tight through out the day, while driving, or watching TV and do plenty of core strengthening activities.

It is great that I got to read what you wrote because I always thought after my pregnancy of my 1st son that my stomach felt like what you described! I thought something was wrong with me. Sorry, I have no suggestions but just reading what you wrote makes me feel better about myself. I was totally worried something was wrong with me but never asked a doctor about it.
Z-

Jasmin,

I had twins 2 years ago. You described exactly what I have been going through. I went to see a specialist. Unfortunately he said if it doesn't correct itself on its own then I will need to have surgery for them to stitch my stomach muscles back together again. I have been waiting until my children are a little older to have the surgery because you cannot lift anything heavy for about 2 weeks. I am having back complications now because of my stomach muscles being so weak. I would see a specialist if I were you so they can track your hernia.

Good Luck
N.

I had the same problem and I think that it was what bothered me the most about my recovering body! My midwife told me that everyone has some sepperation and that some women's is a full hand-width; that you have about 6 months to get rid of it or fat cells build up between the muscle that cannot be exercised away. Sit ups are good, you can also simply tighten your stomache muscles as hard as you can and hold it as long as you can (eventually for a full minute or more) you can do this exercise when doing dishes, driving in the car, etc. The other thing that I did was to borrow a friend's pilates dvd and do that for a few weeks. My son is now 9 mos. old and there is a small indentation but it is only noticable when I actually look for it.
Good luck!

Hi Jasmin,
I'm not a doctor but can suggest pilates!! I have been working out for about 3 months and my muscle tone has dramatically changed. The whole principle of pilates is to strengthen the body and align it properly. Hope this is helpful.
S.

Try Kundalini Yoga. The Awareness Center in excellent! Good luck and congratulations

Hi Jasmin,

I had the same issue with my first son. I was very successful getting my body back with Pilates. I took mat classes and a small group class with other moms on the equipment once a week. At the time I also lived in San Francisco, so I walked alot.

Best of luck to you,

J.
=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-
J. Hibbits
District Manager & Independent Arbonne Consultant
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Working with Arbonne to enhance the lives of women and their families.

i was just wondering if anyone knows if your walls have split if this was covered by insurance? the reason i ask is because mine is two or more fingers and it hurts to have any pressure on my stomach. this is also after three c-sections in under a four yr period. My youngest is 2 and there is no fixing this with situps. thanks K.

Hi Jasmine,

I had 3 very large babies and also had split muscles. The only thing that can fix this is for a doctor to sew them back together. I had a tummy tuck 3 years ago because I has excessive skin around my tummy area and to they also sewed my ab muscles back together so my skin can look normal again.

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